All Women and Children Evacuated from Mariupol Steel Plant Amid Last Battle

Women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, a Ukrainian official said on Saturday.

Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians took refuge in the steelworks, the last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, as Russian forces sought to besiege the city. The plant has become the scene of a fierce battle between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers as Russia aims to complete its takeover by May 9 for the Victory Day celebration.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced in a Telegram article that part of a humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians had been “completed”.

“The President’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” she wrote.

All women and children have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Saturday. Above, a woman and child evacuated from the factory are seen in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 3.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

On Friday, Ukraine announced a plan to evacuate civilians from Azovstal and other parts of Mariupol, as the United Nations also carried out a third operation to evacuate civilians from the area, according to Reuters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier in the week that at least 200 civilians were still at the factory in underground bunkers, where they had little access to food or water as Russia continued to bomb the factory, Reuters reported on Thursday.

It is believed that around 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers are defending the factory against Russian attacks.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is stepping up his military offensive in the city in a bid to take the factory before VE Day, in what would be a symbolic victory for the country, which has largely struggled to make progress which he had hoped for since the invasion began at the end of February.

Russia has also claimed that the city is already fully under its control, despite the continued Ukrainian resistance it faces at the plant.

“Azovstal, the bastion, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol still stands,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday. “Russia attacks them every day, either throwing endless bombs at them, or undertaking physical, physical attacks by throwing [involving] infantry.”

Mariupol is a strategic city on the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov that would provide Russia with land access to Crimea, a region of Ukraine that the Kremlin annexed in 2014. It is also an important port, and a takeover Russia could threaten to cut the country off from trade routes.

Russia had previously promised to end its offensive during the day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to allow civilians to leave, according to Reuters.

A civilian rescued from the factory, Natalia Usmanova, 37, told reporters last Sunday that she was in “terrible fear” in the bunker, where civilians “have not seen the sun for so long”.

“You just can’t imagine what we went through – the terror,” she said. “I lived there, I worked there all my life, but what we saw there was just terrible.”

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